At a time when live-in relationships are still taboo in most parts of the country, a 22-year-old woman and her stepson in the Buxar district of south central Bihar have broken free from the chains of rural orthodoxy to lead a conjugal life.
In what will be seen as a pioneering move, the gram kutchery (loosely, village court) of Bhatauli gram panchayat in Nawanagar block of Buxar district has accorded sanction to their relationship and allowed them to live as couple.
The village court sanction has upset custodians of social and moral norms and become a hot topic of debate in both urban and rural areas of Buxar.
But the head of the court, woman sarpanch Malti Singh Yadav, exuded confidence that the decision would help break new ground in this otherwise traditional society.
In the eye of the storm are Poonam, second wife of Jawahar Paswan (52), and her stepson, Vikas (23), who fell for each other.
Paswan, who had married Poonam eight years ago after his first wife died, was shocked by the relationship.
About a fortnight ago, Jawahar approached the sarpanch and complained he was being neglected by Poonam, who had developed an illicit relationship with Vikas, his son from his first wife.
Jawahar categorically told the sarpanch if Poonam did not want to live with him, she should be asked to live with Vikas.
In response, the gram kutchery summoned Poonam and quizzed her about her husband’s allegations.
Inquiries revealed Poonam not only admitted to her relationship with Vikas, but also emphatically told the village court that she would kill herself if she was not allowed to live with Vikas.
To the utter surprise of village court, she also admitted that her two children —- three-year-old Babita and two-year-old Sonu — were born out of her relationship with Vikas.
As such, they were not Jawahar’s children. “After coming to know the facts, the gram kutchery was left with no alternative but to allow them to live together. Even otherwise, such live-in relationships are allowed in urban areas and accepted in middle class families these days,” sarpanch Malti Singh Yadav said.
Jawahar is a daily wage guard in the forest department posted at Karsar, also under Nawanagar block, while his son Vikas works with a private company at Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.
When contacted, Buxar district magistrate Vinod Singh Gunjial said village court diktat was “a social issue” he did not wish to comment upon.